Friday, January 07, 2011

Bolognese Sauce (at least 3 hours)

Adapted from Lidia Bastianich's recipe in Lidia's Family Table

Note that I halved the recipe and we had it for dinner two nights, two lunches and froze some!!  The recipe below is the halved version.  Also, I used my food processor for all of the processing and it is a huge timesaver for this recipe.

Interesting side note: I work with a guy from Italy.  He told me that in Naples it's said that Bolognese is the perfect meal for doormen to cook as they have nothing else to do but sit and stir.

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 cup dry white wine
3 oz bacon
3 garlic cloves
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced in a food processor or finely chopped
1 celery stalk, minced in a food processor or finely chopped
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 t salt, plus more to taste
1 cup dry red wine
1 T tomato paste
1 cup canned tomatoes and juices, crushed
4 to 6 cups chicken broth

Put all 2 lbs of ground meat in a large mixing bowl.  Pour the white wine over it and mix it with your hands.  Next, make the pestata - cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces and put them in the bowl of the food processor with the peeled garlic.  Process them into a fine paste.

Pour the olive oil into a heavy saucepan (I used my big Le Creuset pot) and scrape in all of the pestata. Set the pan over medium-high heat.  Break up the pestata and stir it around the pan bottom to start rendering the fat.  Cook for at least 3 minutes, stirring often, until the bacon and garlic are sizzling and aromatic.

Stir the minced onions into the fat and cook for a couple of minutes, until sizzling and starting to sweat.  Stir in the celery and carrot, and cook the vegetables until wilted and golden, stirring frequently and thoroughly over medium-high heat, at least 5 minutes.

Turn the heat up a notch, push the vegetables off to the side and put all of the meat into the pan.  Add the salt.  Give the meat on the pan bottom a few moments to brown, then stir, spread and toss with a sturdy spoon, mixing the meat into the vegetables and making sure every bit of meat browns and begins releasing fat and juices.  Soon the meat liquid will almost cover the meat itself.  Cook at high heat, stirring often, until all of that liquid has disappeared, even in the bottom of the pan.  This will take 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the heat and the width of the pan.  Stir occasionally, and as the liquid level diminishes, lower the heat too, so the meat does not burn.

When all of the meat liquid as has been cooked off, pour in the 1 cup of red wine.  Raise the heat if you've lowered it, and stir the meat as the wine comes to a boil.  Cook until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Now drop the 1 tablespoon of tomato paste into a clear space on the pan bottom.  Toast a minute in the hot spot., then stir with the meat and let caramelize for 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes.  Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring the meat and let the liquid almost boil off, 5 minutes more.

Pour in 2 cups of hot broth, stir well, and add more if needed to cover the meat.  Bring it to an active simmer, cover the pan and adjust the heat to maintain slow, steady cooking with small bubbles perking all over the surface of the sauce.

From this point, the Bolognese should cook for 2-3 hours.  Check the pot every 20 minutes and add hot broth as needed to cover the meat.  The liquid level should be reducing by 1 1/2 to 2 cups between additions;  if it's falling much faster and it takes more than 2 cups to cover the meat, lower the heat to slow the evaporation.  If the sauce level drops slowly or not at all, raise the heat and set the cover ajar to speed concentration.  Stir well at every addition.

During the final cooking interval, you want to reduce the level of the liquid.  At the end, the meat should no longer be covered but appear suspended in a thick flowing sauce.  If the meat is still submerged in a lot of liquid, remove the cover completed to cook off moisture quickly.

A few minutes before the end of cooking, taste a bit of meat and sauce and add salt if you want.

Note that you'll want to spoon off the fat before serving.

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